May I introduce the propagule?

In April I was in Vero Beach, Florida for a bewitching week with friends. It is a barrier island, and the inland waterway is bordered by red mangroves Rhizophora mangle.


Their name comes from their reddish stilt roots; the above-water sections help them breathe.


These extraordinary trees and their roots provide important habitat for all sorts of fish, crustaceans and birds, including this American White Ibis,  Eudocimus albus, who is looking for crabs:


Mangroves live in brackish water, and they have the most unusual reproductive system. They flower, like most plants, producing tiny inconspicuous downward-facing flowers:


But instead of then producing seeds, they produce propagules, (a brand new word for me, sadly with too many letters to be very useful in Scrabble).


These miniature plants stay attached to their mother plant while they grow a longer and thinner root:


Eventually, they drop off into the water below:


Once launched, they bob around vertically and drift with the tides and currents until they stick tip-down in the mud, and become a new tree.

The mangrove edges provide rich pickings for this Little Blue Heron, Egretta caerulea, foraging at low tide:


Alone among herons, the pure white immature is entirely differently colored from this adult.

And in these lagoons there be manatees, which the early mariners thought were mermaids. To my delight we saw them, but not clearly enough to photograph, so this will have to do:



Florida may conjure up images of Disneyworld, but it still has many wild and beautiful places.  More next time.

2 thoughts on “May I introduce the propagule?”

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